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Hearing Aids > Features

The modern hearing aid is more than just a sound amplifier. The state-of-the-art devices offered by leading manufacturers represent complex sound processing computers that have been compressed to the size of a pill. Hearing aids today can not only be programmed to specifications, but are also made to offer a dizzying array of features for the user.

One feature well known to anyone who has used a television is the remote control. Many hearing aids today come with a remote control that allows users to adjust the volume and listening programs on their devices. In the case of a CIC, IIC, or even ITC, a remote control may not only be useful, but in fact necessary, as such units have no external controls built into their casings. Remote controls for hearing aids can be quite small and designed to fit in a pocket, on a key ring, in place of a watch, or on a neck pendant.

The leading reason for hearing aid breakdowns and malfunctions is moisture getting inside of the instrument, whether from rain, perspiration, ear fluid, or any other source. Consequently, a number of hearing aids today are made with moisture resistant features, whether in the form of a moisture repellant coating, an internal sealant, a microphone covering, or a barrier between the speaker and the ear canal. Such features are insufficient to permit the wearing of a hearing aid in a shower, a bath, or a pool, but they can drastically reduce the number of problems arising in the course of regular wear.

Another issue with which many hearing aid users are familiar is the unpleasant amplification of background noise, such as the sound of wind. Many hearing aids today offer noise cancellation and noise filtering features which allow such background noise as wind to be significantly reduced without any deleterious effects on the foreground speech signal. On an even more basic level, many hearing aids also offer automatic volume control, which drops the amplification anytime a particularly loud noise is detected.

Another disagreeable sound that is familiar to many hearing aid users is feedback. Particularly with analog hearing aids, but also, to a lesser extent, with digital aids, feedback arises unpredictably and has a highly irritating effect. Many hearing aids today offer feedback detection and cancellation features, which can identify and eliminate feedback almost instantaneously.

To assist users in focusing on specific sources of sound, many hearing aids incorporate directional microphones. The basic microphone built into a hearing aid is omnidirectional, which means that it picks up sounds from all around the user. By contrast, a directional microphone focuses more on sounds directly in front of the user rather than those coming from the rear or the sides. Since most individuals will naturally face the source of the sound to which they wish to listen, be it a speaker, a group, or an audio device, a directional microphone can often provide a better signal to noise ratio than an omnidirectional microphone. In some models, the directional microphone has to be switched on manually, while in others it is activated automatically when speech is detected in the listening environment.

Building on the idea of the directional microphone, a number of hearing aids also offer speech recognition or speech enhancement. This feature enables the hearing aid to detect human speech when present in the listening environment and convert it to an amplified and undistorted signal.

Another common feature is the T-coil (also known as a telecoil or telephone coil), which is a component that allows hearing aids to connect directly to external audio sources, such as telephones, television sets, public address systems, and so forth. By having the hearing aid pick up the signal from the audio source directly, the T-coil eliminates background noise or interference that could otherwise obscure the signal.
A number of hearing aids have advanced computing features, such as data-logging and self-learning. With data-logging, hearing aids actually record information relating to usage, settings, and various listening environments. This allows both the user and the hearing specialist to access empirical data regarding everyday usage for the hearing aid. In turn, this makes possible a more precise fine-tuning process, enabling the device's listening programs to be optimized for each user’s unique needs.

Self-learning, also known as “artificial intelligence”, refers to the hearing aid's ability to learn about the user's preferences over time and to make optimal adjustments on its own. This reduces the number of manual adjustments the user has to make as the computer chip inside the hearing aid begins to automate setting corrections in response to changes in the listening environment.

A number of hearing aids today come with Bluetooth capability. The term "Bluetooth" refers to a particular type of short distance wireless communication that can be used to securely send data between computers, cellular telephones, PDAs, and other electronic devices. Because Bluetooth signals are digital, they are not subject to the sorts of environmental degradation, distortion, or interference that can compromise the quality of FM transmissions. At the same time, Bluetooth is a low power transmission, meaning that its drain on the hearing aid battery is minimal. The Bluetooth feature enables direct communication between the hearing aid and such important audio sources as cellular telephones and televisions.

Another advanced feature is binaural processing. Traditionally, the right and left ear hearing aids worked independently of each other. With binaural processing, the two hearing aids in the user's ears actually communicate with one another and work in concert to optimize the listening experience. The result is an enhanced ability to identify speech and locate sounds.

A number of the features described here are available only in premium models. However, as technology continues to advance, a growing number of features are becoming standard. In addition, new and improved features are being created and incorporated into hearing aid technology over time, making these instruments progressively closer to recreating aspects of natural hearing with each passing year.

These are the key features available in hearing aids. Please explore other topics available on our site. In the meantime, if this information has been helpful to you, we would greatly appreciate it if you would support us by recommending our site to other users on Google. You can do so by simply clicking this button:

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